GODFREY GEORGE and NATHANIEL SHAIBU
Confusion is trailing the Federal Government’s palliatives package to the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory stemming from distribution hitches, alleged underhand dealings and inadequacy of the materials to meet the needs of Nigerians.
While some of the states have taken custody of the funds and food items earmarked for distribution to residents as palliatives, others have yet to receive such amid agitation by the citizens.
The Federal Government, on Thursday, announced the release of a N180bn palliative package to states to cushion the impact of the fuel subsidy removal.
Each state is expected to get N5bn and 180 trucks of rice as part of measures to assuage the pains of the subsidy removal.
The removal of subsidy on petrol, which was announced by President Bola Tinubu during his inauguration on Monday, May 29, 2023, has led to sharp and multiple increases in fuel pump prices, driven up the prices of goods and services, pushed millions of Nigerians into poverty and worsening the socio-economic situation in the country.
But announcing the release of the palliative at the end of the 135th National Economic Council meeting presided over by Vice-President Kashim Shettima in Abuja, the Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, disclosed that the N5bn was to enable the state governments to procure 100,000 bags of rice, 40,000 bags of maize and fertilizers to cushion the effect of food shortage across the country.
He added that considering the urgency in meeting the need to mitigate the skyrocketing food prices across the country, the Federal Government had last week released five trucks of rice to each state of the federation.
The governor explained, “This funding has to be shared with a formula as follows: 52 per cent of this money is given to the states as grants, while 48 per cent of the N5bn is to be paid back on an instalment basis within a period of 20 months to the CBN by the states and the local government areas in Nigeria.
“The council has taken bold decisions in order to ensure the speedy release of grains and other items to cushion the effects of subsidy removal on the underprivileged in society.”
Some states of the Federation have begun sharing the palliatives released by the Federal Government, but others are still waiting for the materials to arrive
Among the states to have commenced the distribution of the palliative items are Kwara, Osun, Lagos, Ondo, Ekiti, and Gombe, while Sokoto, Kebbi, Oyo, Katsina and Borno have unveiled plans to distribute the items to residents.
In Kwara, the state government confirmed on Friday that it received two truckloads of rice comprising 1,200 bags from the Federal Government on Tuesday, August 8, which it said would be shared with the people.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Rafiu Ajakaye, said at a press conference that another three truckloads of rice or 1,800 bags had arrived in the state and would be shared to the people by the committee set up to distribute the palliatives.
Ajakaye said that the committee chaired by the state Commissioner of Police, Mrs Ebunoluwarotimi Adelesi, comprised traditional rulers, religious leaders, civil society organisations, security agencies and community leaders.
He added that the committee would generate the list of those that would benefit from the palliatives, adding that the composition cuts across all strata of society, including people with disabilities.
The government also confirmed receipt of N2bn out of the N5bn relief fund that the Federal Government released for the purchase of rice to be distributed en masse to vulnerable members of the public.
The state also said it awaits a balance of N2bn of the fund as well as N1bn worth of maize (40,000 bags), which the Central Bank of Nigeria is selling to each state from the national strategic reserve.
However, residents of some wards in the state expressed displeasure over the insignificant quantity of rice they received.
In a trending video on social media, some residents of Adewole Ward in the Ilorin West Local Government Area of the state were seen walking away from the venue of the distribution of foodstuffs in the Agunbelewo area.
The residents said the entire Agunbelewo was allocated six measures of rice, which is about one and a half paint plastic containers out of the eight bags allocated to the Adewole Ward, where the state governor, AbdulRaman AbdulRazaq, hails from.
One Mallam Yinusa Magaji, who identified himself as a leader in the area, said all the residents of the Agunbelewo area were given six measures of rice to share.
He said, “We received six measures of rice out of one bag allocated to three areas of Agunbelewo, Gaa Odota and Adewole Housing Estate in the Adewole Ward.
“We want the government to challenge us if they gave us more than six measures contained in this bag.”
Before he ended his speech, the crowd that gathered in the place had reduced, as many were said to have left in anger.
Reacting to the footage, Ajakaye described it as the handwork of members of the opposition party in the state.
“The person addressing the people in the video is the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in the Adewole Ward. It is sad that people are playing politics with the good intention of the Federal Government,” he stated.
Ajakaye, who said the government had good intentions and meant well for the people of the state, added that he had it on good authority that the government had directed that food items be distributed to the residents through their traditional rulers.
He explained, “I learnt that everyone should be given one paint bowl of rice, which is about 4kg, and no one should be given less.
“If a household is given a bag of rice and the leadership of the household devises a sharing formula, I don’t think that is the fault of the government.”
In a viral video, some residents of Osun State lamented that they had yet to receive the palliatives promised by the Federal Government.
However, the spokesman for the governor, Mallam Olawale Rasheed, said the palliatives were yet to be distributed, urging the residents to hold on for the last batch of rice to be received.
In an interview with one of our correspondents, Rasheed said the government would issue the template for the distribution when the last truckload of rice with 600 bags arrives.
He said, “The government has so far received four truckloads making it a total of 2,400 bags of rice. Four truckloads were delivered last week. The last batch is expected any moment from now. The government is already presenting the template for the distribution across the states.
“The template will be released in the new week. Members of the public are informed that the government of Governor Ademola Adeleke will ensure equitable distribution to all sectors and sections of society.
“We urge the public to ignore any insinuation that the palliatives will not get to those who need it. This government is of the people, by the people and for the people.”
The state Commissioner for Information and Public Engagement, Kolapo Alimi, corroborated Rasheed’s position and said the Federal Government approved 3,000 bags of rice for the state, adding that 2,400 bags had so far been received.
“Out of the five truckloads of rice to the state, we are waiting for the completion of the palliative supply before the announcement and distribution.”
The South-East All Progressives Congress Young Progressives Forum, Anambra State chapter, has asked the state governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, to account for the Federal Government’s subsidy palliatives for the state.
In a statement co-signed by the National Convener of the group, Paschal Candle, and others, on Saturday, it decried that everything about the Federal Government package was being shrouded in secrecy in Anambra.
The group said without the revelation by Zulum after the NEC meeting held on Thursday, Anambra residents would not be aware of such a package coming to the State.
It, therefore, demanded the setting up of a steering committee to supervise the judicious distribution of the five truckloads of rice already received by the state to vulnerable people across the 21 local government areas.
The statement read, “We are all aware from what the Borno State Governor, Prof Babagana Zulum, told Nigerians last Thursday that the Federal Government had already released five truckloads of rice to all states last week and that N5bn was approved by Mr President for disbursement to the states to enable each of the states to procure additional 100,000 bags of rice, 40,000 bags of maize and fertiliser to be distributed to the most vulnerable across their various states.
“Without this revelation, Ndi Anambra will not be aware of such packages coming to the state. Everything is done in secrecy. People are not being carried along. We are wondering why the state government, after receiving the items, refused to announce to the people of Anambra State that it has taken possession of the Federal Government’s palliatives and cash. We believe that this is a deliberate act by the APGA-led government in Anambra State to continue to paint the APC in Anambra State in a bad light.”
But in a reaction to this, Soludo’s Press Secretary, Christian Aburime, said the state government had not yet received any palliative from the Federal Government.
“Governor Soludo has not received any truckload of rice as of today (Saturday) to the best of my knowledge. The governor will address the press on Monday to clarify the insinuations and the true position of things as it relates to Anambra State,” he told one of our correspondents, who contacted him.
The Ekiti State Government claimed that it distributed a total of 3,000 bags of rice it received from the Federal Government, particularly to vulnerable citizens.
The state Commissioner for Agriculture, Ebenezer Boluwade, who doubles as the Chairman of the state Palliative Distribution Committee, gave the breakdown of the distribution and noted that members of the committee met and agreed on the list of beneficiaries.
Boluwade said, “Each of the 177 wards of the state will get 10 bags of rice each. Parts of the criteria are that we must prioritise widows and women in the wards. What we are saying is that the rice going to the wards should be shared more with women and widows. We also specially allocated 100 bags for widows.
“All the artisans in the private sector shared 200 bags of rice, while the transport unions got 180 bags. All the market women in Ekiti State were allocated 100 bags. Persons with disabilities got 150 bags.
“The elderly, that is pensioners, got 100 bags. Civil servants comprising the junior staff members got 100 bags.”
Boluwade assured residents that the palliatives would get to everyone in subsequent tranches.
The Ondo State Government said it was making efforts to ensure that the palliatives got to the vulnerable in the state, adding that the distribution of the Federal Government rice would soon commence.
The Chairman of the Palliatives Committee and Commissioner for Finance, Mr Wale Akinterinwa, disclosed that the Federal Government promised the state 81,000 bags of rice, but Ondo only got 3,000 bags, which he noted were not enough for the state.
Akinterinwa said, “Ondo State has got 3,000 bags of rice contrary to the 81,000 bags that was promised by the Federal Government, but rice is not the only food we consume; we will provide other food items.
“The state will also get additional 3,000 bags of rice to add to the ones given by the Federal Government.”
The acting governor of the state, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, directed members of the committee to speed up work on the implementation of the measures already put in place by the state government, according to a statement by the acting governor’s Press Secretary, Mr Kenneth Odusola-Stevenson,
The Sokoto State Government said it had not received its share of the palliatives from the Federal Government.
This was disclosed by an aide to the state governor who did not want his name in print.
The aide stated, “I can categorically tell you that we have not received any rice from Abuja in Sokoto State.
“I know if we receive it now, we will definitely find a way to get it to the citizens of the state in a good time,” the source added.
Efforts to get the reaction of the Kebbi State government were not successful as the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Ahmed Idris, could not be reached at the time of filing this report.
The Director-General of Press Affairs, Gombe Government House, Ismaila Misilli, said the sharing of the palliatives would be determined after careful consideration of a previous register of beneficiaries.
Misilli disclosed this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Gombe, adding that the distribution of palliatives would be concluded after consultation with relevant stakeholders.
He said, “The distribution of the palliatives in Gombe State is a priority for Governor Inuwa Yahaya.
“Before now, he had inaugurated a state-wide distribution of food and agro items across the 11 local governments, targeting 420,000 beneficiaries.”
He, however, noted that the governor had not returned from Abuja after the NEC meeting to consult with the relevant stakeholders in the state on the modalities and sharing formula.
He added, “The specific food items to be purchased and distributed will be determined based on a careful assessment of the needs and preferences of the people. You know our normal staple food, but we will surely provide essential food items that will be most beneficial to the recipients.”
Katsina State Governor, Dikko Radda, said the federal and state subsidy palliatives would get to the “poorest of the poor”in the state.
He also gave an assurance that the distribution of the palliatives would be handled by political leaders at the state, local government council and ward levels to ensure that the items got to the poor.
Radda directed all the 34 local government chairmen in the state to purchase grains for immediate distribution, while awaiting Federal Government’s palliatives.
He explained that the 34 local government councils would purchase 36,100 bags of maize each, using their monthly allocations from the Federation Account.
Radda said the state government would also order extra consignments of rice, maize and fertiliser from the Federal Government for distribution to residents and farmers.
The Borno State Government expressed readiness to administer the N5bn fuel subsidy palliative allocated to the state for the optimum benefit of the people.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Communication and Strategy, Isa Gusau, told Sunday PUNCH that the state government already had a template with which the distribution of the palliatives would follow.
He said, “The system, which came into being due to the unfortunate Boko Haram crisis, which affected close to two million people, is such that the beneficiaries are classified into three – internally displaced persons still living in IDP camps, resettled IDPs in communities and indigent citizens in metropolis and towns.”
On how soon the state government would purchase and distribute the palliatives, Gusau said Governor Zulum had in July launched a new phase of palliatives targeting 300,000 households, with each household having six persons.
He stated, “This means 1.8 million persons made up of men, women and children are likely to be reached from across 27 wards in Maiduguri and the Jere LGA. The distribution is currently ongoing.
“Before then, Governor Zulum personally supervised the distribution of palliatives to thousands at Muna in Jere, and at Mafoni and Shehuri southwards in Maiduguri.
“Outside Maiduguri, the governor supervised sharing of palliatives at Gwoza LGA and at Baga, Doron-Baga and Cross Kauwa in the Kukawa Local Government Area of northern Borno.”
In a related development, the Oyo State Government has approved the immediate release of funds for car loans for primary school teachers across all zones in the state.
This was contained in a statement made available on Friday in Ibadan by the Coordinating Director, Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board, Mr Jacob Dairo.
According to him, the loan is coming as a palliative to the teachers.
The Gombe State Coordinator of the National Youth Service Corps, Dawut Jidda, has pleaded with the state government to augment the food and water supply at the camp, following the removal of the fuel subsidy.
Jidda made this plea in his address during the swearing-in ceremony of 1622 Batch B stream II corps members at the Amada temporary orientation camp, Akko Local Government Area of Gombe State.
Delta State Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, has set up a committee that is already working on what will be given to the residents as palliatives.
This was contained in a signed statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Sir Festus Ahon.
The statement read partly, “The committee, among other things, is looking at the distribution pattern and how to reach the people.
“The N5bn will be well utilised for the benefit of all Deltans irrespective of their political parties, religious beliefs and ethnic nationalities.
“The committee is expected to submit its report to the governor in the next weeks for his input and approval.”
The Zamfara State Government said it had yet to receive palliatives from the Federal Government.
The Senior Special Assistant to Governor Dauda Lawal on Broadcast Media and Press Affairs, Mustafa Jafaru Kaura, stated this while speaking with one of our correspondents on the phone.
Kaura said the five truckloads of rice allocated to the state had yet to be delivered.
He, however, expressed optimism that the consignment and the N5bn would be in the state in the not-too-distant future.
Kaura stated, “As I am speaking to you now, we have not received the palliatives and the N5bn.
“We are, however, expecting the items and the money anytime from now.”
He explained that the state government had proper arrangements on how the palliatives would be distributed to residents of the state.
He said, “The state government has already planned on how the palliatives should be distributed to the public.
“The government is waiting for both the money and the other items for onward distribution to the deserving people of the state.”
The Kano State Government, on Saturday, said it was still awaiting the arrival of the Federal Government’s promised palliatives.
The spokesman for the government, Sanusi Tofa, said the palliatives had yet to arrive in the state.
According to him, as soon as they arrive, the state government will constitute a committee to deliberate on the sharing modalities.
“As soon as they arrive, the media will be briefed on the modalities the state government will adopt to ensure that all those they are meant for benefit from the government’s good gesture,” he stated
The Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, while comparing the disbursement of palliatives by the previous administration during the COVID-19 pandemic with the Tinubu administration’s programme, said the media and civil society groups must follow up on the disbursement of the palliatives to ensure accountability.
“Everybody knows that the Federal Government has announced it, and it is left for you people in the media and the rest of us in the civil society to follow it through to ensure that no state government can conveniently say that they were not given the present palliatives, unlike what happened during the COVID,” he said.
On his part, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, Musa Rafsanjani, said committees should be set up across the states, to monitor the distribution of the palliatives and to ensure accountability.
“In each state, there must be a committee that should be constituted that will include labour unions, the Nigerian Bar Association, religious and community leaders, and civil society groups,” he noted.
Also speaking, the Chairman, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, Chido Onumah, said an oversight body should also be set up at the federal level to receive reports from the state committees and be accountable to the public.
The organised labour had earlier knocked the Federal Government for releasing a N180bn palliative package to states to cushion the impact of fuel subsidy removal.
The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress insisted that state governors could not be trusted, noting that politicians and not the poor would benefit from the N5bn given to each state government for disbursement to the citizens.